On Friday I attended the funeral of a very special lady in my life. A lady who's home I spend almost every Sunday of my high school having lunch at, laughing around her dining room table with her family--both biological and 'adopted.' She was the matriarch of a family that is extraordinary, and I know a lot of that is due to her.
It's funny what you learn about people after they are gone. She was the daughter youngest daughter of Japaneese immigrants. I always knew she was couragaous because God gave her two rambunctious boys to parent. But I learned how much courage she had to be a young woman and she moved away from her family in Montana, to Washington, and then to NYC and then to Japan, all during/just after World War II. How scary it must have been, but what great things she experienced because she did.
I always knew she loved God. But I learned that she gave her life to Christ when she was 5 years old, and when she found out that she had cancer, she decided that she didn't want treatment. But she DID want a lobster dinner. Because she wasn't scared to pass on, because she knew who she belonged to and where she was going.
I knew she was hospitable. Not only because I spent many a sunday's at her dining room table-- Grandma Gruel at one end, and Grandpa Gruel at the other. And it was like the two of them were surrounding us with their love and support. But one thing her son said in the Eulogy was that she always 'made space to people to be themselves.' And I think that is so true. And when you looked at the people sitting in the church, I bet that she touched every single one of their lives by loving who they are, in whatever place in life they are.
I knew she was a cute little lady. But I didn't know what a hot mama she was! This was one of the photos that they had framed at the funeral. So gorgeous!
I always knew she was wise. Some other things that touched me about her from the eulogy was that she taught her sons that they should always have "hyacinth for the Soul." That no matter whee you are in life, you always need to have a little bit set aside to do things that make life worth living. Spend a little to go to a movie, or have a drink with a friend. And she always gave us girls relationship advice-- that we needed to wait for a Trout, and not settle for a bottom-sucker fish. And I remember, when I told Grandma & Grandpa Gruel I was getting married, the first question they asked was if he was a trout. :)
The thing that really made me think the most about the funeral was the phrase 'ego integrity vs. despair.' It's basically that when someone comes to the end of their life, they either look back and see that they lived their life the best and fullest that they could have, or they are in despair that they have come to the end and it is too late to do things right. And one thing that gives me comfort as I grieve her passing is that she definitely had ego integrity. She looked back and felt good about her life.
Saturday would have been her and Grandpa's 60th wedding anniversary. Grandpa went to meet his maker about 3 years ago, and I know she has missed him greatly since. I kind of like to think that she wanted to spend that day with him.
I have a knot in my chest and tears in my eyes thinking about how next time I go to her home she won't be sitting at the end of the dining room table, looking over all the people that she loved. But I am so thankful that she was part of my life, and I hope to be like her as I travel through the rest of my life. I hope that I can love people well, and live courageously, and invite people to be themselves in my life. I hope I can look back at the way I have lived my life, and feel good about. And I'm so thankful that I was able to learn all of these things through knowing and loving Grandma.